Impact of Extreme Weather on the Fire Service Examined

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) released a new technical report, “Fire Department Preparedness for Extreme Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters,” which examines the impact of extreme weather and natural disasters on the fire service and the types of service calls most likely to arise as a result of these disasters.

“Firefighters continue to be called upon to respond to many types of incidents, disasters, and situations – in all kinds of weather, day and night,” said U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade. “Our coun­try’s fire service is an amazing cadre of specially trained individuals whom the public relies on during emergencies – including extreme weather and natural disasters. This requires all firefighters to be prepared to respond in the most challenging conditions.”

<“Fire Department Preparedness for Extreme Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters” also addresses equipment and planning needed in order to be prepared. Safety, mutual aid, shift management, resource identification, logistics and other related issues are discussed, along with examples from case studies of fire departments that have learned from experience what can happen. The report provides information fire departments can use to enhance their level of preparedness and ensure greater safety the next time disaster strikes. For example:

  • The Warning and Notification section examines assessing staffing requirements; notification and callout; dispatch, weather service and utility company updates
  • The Mutual Aid section discusses the use of and managing assistance from within the broader region or out of state.
  • The Shift Management, Accommodations and Food section examines extended shifts; station assignment and crew rotation; relocation of assets and equipment; personal kits; bunk space, food and basic supplies; and safe havens and rehabilitation locations for surge personnel and off-duty personnel.
  • The Support to Personnel Section includes information about the evacuation and sheltering of fire service members, their families and their pets; personnel family assurance desk and status checks; and chaplains and health and mental health services.
  • The section on Personnel Safety offers guidance about considerations for unusual and dangerous conditions, the safety officer and fire station vulnerability to weather emergencies.
  • The section on Operation Support discusses coordination with transportation and public works, coordination with law enforcement departments and the national guard and emergency medical services for evacuees in shelters.

Case studies are offered from real life emergency response situations stemming from blizzards and heavy snows, severe flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes and earthquake-related tsunamis, ice storms and extreme cold, drought and extreme heat, power outages and tornados. Incident command and unified command issues, as well as coordination with emergency operations centers and use of community emergency response teams also are examined in the report.

“September is again the nation’s Preparedness Month,” continued Cade. “The USFA is pleased to provide this critical information in support of not only this important Department of Homeland Security initiative but also to continue our mission of ensuring the fire service is capable of responding to any and all emergencies, regardless of scope.”

For additional information regarding this report, or other USFA Technical Reports, visit the Publications section of the USFA Web site at https://www.usfa.dhs.gov/applications/publications.

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